Sell Me in 20 Minutes: Mushibugyo and Arata Kangatari

I’m not sure every Monday this Spring will be a clinic for how to make a good Battle-genre series, but this one certainly was.

Mushibugyo was, first and foremost, a series absolutely bursting with color (and not all of it vibrant). From the pale, ominous shades of night to the bright, garish colors of Edo being viewed for the first time to the checkerboard-shaded opener, it never wasted a chance to try out new schemes. It also played some interesting tricks with flashbacks, casually dropping the fact that the male lead’s father had stabbed himself in the leg into a brief 3-second cutaway, and baring the female lead’s past emotional turmoil at the death of her parents in a slightly longer scene. As a bonus, the soundtrack was all over the place in a good way, blending together guitar riffs with a more eastern feel for some great aural variety. This one definitely gets a minimum 3 more episodes to make its case.

Arata Kangatari, meanwhile, was laying on some very heavy terminology very early. I’m not a big fan of that, so it immediately activated my caution circuit. But you know what? It was perfectly fine, because that was just the spicy appetizer to a spectacular display of a high school student with a history of being bullied suffering a sad nervous breakdown (complete with visualized first-person trauma). The subsequent cut to a scene that was as playful and zany as the second bit was traumatic confirmed what I had begun to suspect at about the 3-minute mark; this show has potential to succeed in any number of ways. And that’s before the Prince-and-Pauper twist (which was, by the way, immediately made visible with subtle alterations to real-world Arata’s character design), a choice opening up even more in the way of potential story paths and character growth. Even if parts of it were a tad generic, I don’t think there was another drama this season that came out firing on as many cylinders as Arata Kangatari did, and that momentum is enough to earn it 3 episodes of leeway.

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